Monday, January 7, 2013
Over 20 years after I began reading the Wheel of Time series, here I am writing my review of the final book. When I started my elder son was a newborn and now he’s an adult studying IT while working full time. What a journey the wait has been – the online WOT community, wonderful WOT friends, this blog, visits to the Cons in the US! Sadly it is a journey that Jordan himself did not complete. This is a non-spoiler review because we’ve waited so many years for the finale that I’m not going to spoil it. Likewise, no matter how much you are tempted, don’t jump ahead to the last scene, which is in RJ’s words, but arrive at it in the proper sequence. Your self-discipline will be rewarded. Everybody makes a stand on the tatters of existence. There are few shirkers. Losses are huge and dire. There are scenes of great symbolism, and theological /philosophical as well as military crusades, and there should be enough duels to satisfy the who-would-win-in-a-fight? fans. Thankfully the plotlines are less abruptly resolved than in Towers of Midnight. Some things long anticipated pan out as fans have theorised, but others are complete surprises. Also surprising is which prophecies remain unfulfilled and what is not explained. It highlights the loss of any sequel which would perhaps have provided these. Food for discussion for a while yet, I daresay. My favourite story lines are those of Lanfear, and Demandred, and parts of Lan, and the Black Tower. Forsaken and Dreadlords get just desserts as they are lured by character defects into going too far and paying the price of death or ironic punishment. Regarding characterisation, Perrin and Faile are excellent and the main female characters very good. Tuon is perhaps weakest of the women. Mat’s humour doesn’t wink at the reader as it did in the previous two books, but he does use the odd out-of-series word. Rand is psychologically balanced; more human, less Zen master. Only a bare handful of ‘sleeper’ Darkfriends are revealed, less than I expected, so perhaps some managed to sleep it out. There are fewer new characters than in Towers of Midnight and some reappearances of minor characters from earlier in the series, although I would have liked more of the latter, to emphasise the ta’veren effect and the cyclic nature of time. I think that the lack of reference to a couple of characters, one important to the fight against the Shadow, the other formative to Rand, is regrettable. A positive is that there is less promoting one character by making the other characters in the scene look foolish. The book is one of the few volumes in the series with no new chapter icon. The writing has lots of adjectives and is florid at times, but I suppose if there ever was a time for hyperbole… The POVs are switched well to keep the story line moving and maintain excitement, essential in the extremely long Last Battle chapter (truly the Two Hundred Pages War). With its great length and 72 POVs it gives a feel of the grinding battle. Appropriately, Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One looks back to their previous battle at the end of The Eye of the World . The end of the battle also hearkens back to The Eye of the World prologue that brought so many into the series. The Wheel turns. It’s interesting that there is reliance on weaves, especially new uses for known weaves, rather than One Power devices, whereas, in contrast, real world industrial technology features. Another point is that stewardship – caring for the people and the Land - legitimises rule, not inheritance or military might. Many readers will feel that details or conversations should have been written differently – however, tellingly these will vary from reader to reader – but the overall Pattern is very satisfying and well done. The ending – modestly described as an ending - is bitter-sweet and no fairy tale. Just as in the final tally of gains and losses of the Last Battle, we are reminded that we have been given so much over the last twenty odd years and in Brandon’s and Team Jordan’s great efforts to bring the series to fulfilment, but we also lost a lot too in Jordan’s untimely passing. And so our march to Tarmon Gai’don is done. Let the Wheel turn. *** I’ve been busy writing a new essay which incorporates quite a bit of material from A Memory of Light and it will be posted next week. A Memory of Light provides new information for the character and the myths, symbols and themes essays and a few of these essays will have major additions. However the world-building articles won’t require as much updating.